Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frankfurt balances the book

This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair was upbeat. Books are really in business, with an ebbing of hype about digital erosion and a brisk trade in rights and projects for many at the fair.
The New Zealand stand
On the New Zealand stand in Hall 6.0 there was a real buzz, and lots of fruitful discussion. The collegial feeling among the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) exhibitors, supported by Creative New Zealand, makes working in this busy fair so much more productive.

Poster listing countries in Hall 6.0
It goes without saying that Frankfurt is hectic, with 7,300 exhibitors from 102 countries spread across six multi-levelled halls. Having France as country of honour this year was a big deal.

There’s normally a percentage of appointments that turn into no shows — just getting around the many halls in the Frankfurter Messe can lead to big delays — but not this year.

We had around 50 meetings for Oratia, with rights interest strong for a number of new children’s and non-fiction books. 

Armando de Santiago (Guadalajara Book Fair), Catriona Ferguson,
and Frankfurt Book Fair organisers Hanife Içten and Grace Moss 
Distribution and coedition interest was strong for the two publishers I represented there, Massey University Press and Te Papa Press.

The fair enabled PANZ director Catriona Ferguson and me to network with fellow publishers associations (among them Ireland, Canada, Australia and Brazil) and other book fairs (especially Taipei and Guadalajara).

The main concern shared among publishers, distributors and agents was the challenges faced by book retailing. Rising commercial rents and bleeding of sales to online booksellers, many of whom avoid local taxes, are challenging a lot of our retail partners — making initiatives like NZ’s upcoming Bookshop Day on 28 October all the more important.

Still there is a palpable confidence in publishing just now, as Publishers Weekly reported in its round-up on Frankfurt – noting that overall visitor numbers were up on the past two years.

Meeting up at Frankfurt, clockwise from top left: Herwig Bitsche (NordSūd Verlag, Zurich) and Monika Osberghaus (Klett, Leipzig) with their German children's book award finalists; me with our Spanish publisher Carlos Arnanz of Ediciones Salamanca and translator Francisco Molina; selfie with Malaysian Book Publishers Association Honorary Secretary  Sheik Faisal and Lei Lim of Oyez Books; and in the company of our esteemed Italian agent Guido Lagormasino. 


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